In today’s profile, we meet Alastair McPhee of Cue and Review
What’s the name of your company and who owns it?
The social enterprise is the Bishopbriggs Media Centre, a community hub with 19 business units. The building is owned by our charity Cue and Review – “Print Speaking to the Blind”.
When was it set up?
The social enterprise was set up in 2004. We took out a mortgage to buy the building in conjunction with Social Investment Scotland.
What’s the company’s aim?
Cue and Review the charity has been recording Scottish national newspapers for blind people for 34 years. However, back in 2003 we found out that our then landlord was planning on selling the building, which meant that we would have lost our recording studios.
We then tried to save our studios by buying the entire building. Back in 2004 we had hoped that we would be able to create a second company, a social enterprise, to buy the building and then find a way to raise the funding to pay off the mortgages a lot quicker. However, we have not been able to achieve that, but what we have achieved is that we have 19 units in the building, and most of the time they have been filled. We’ve had local community businesses and other charities working in the building.
We have been able to ensure that the main charity has been kept going through out all that time and we’ve been able to support local ventures as well. Although our core business is producing material for the blind, to do that we had to become a landlord as well.
What did you (Alastair) do previously?
I am the founder of Cue and Review and I founded it when I was at school, back in 1982.
Why be a social and not a private enterprise?
When Social Investment Scotland was launched, we heard about social enterprises. It merged in with our core aims as a charity. We also needed to make some form of salary, but we are not out to make massive profits.
How many staff/volunteers – and what did they do previously?
Cue and Review the charity currently has two members of staff working part-time and three on the Community Jobs Scotland programme, but over the last 30 years a lot of young men and women have been with us on training, volunteering and working with the blind, and then moved on and used those skills in work.
For example, Kevin Walls, who joined us on Community Jobs Scotland, had a very clear idea of how he could develop his sound recording career, and last year he won the Bafta Scotland prize for sound. Also Liam McCann started with us on work experience and worked with the charity before becoming Head of Music at Central FM.
Who are your main customers?
The main thrust of our organisation is for people who are blind or have a visual impairment.
Tell us about your best trading experience?
Being able to help young people, like Kevin and Liam. In terms of the building, being able to help lots of local businesses. For example, Matt Tollan, a veteran, has set up a gym and does a great deal of work with veterans with PTSD. I am just very proud of the fact that by the charity owning the building, we are helping people with mental health problems. Although there is a great deal of stress in being a landlord and running a charity, there is also a great deal of pleasure in knowing that so many people have been helped.
And the worst?
It’s extremely stressful. I am delighted we have already paid off half of the mortgage, but the reality is we still have more than £200, 000 to raise.
And what are your future plans?
To raise awareness of our service, to highlight the fact that blind and partially sighted people in Scotland can get access our daily service, and to find a way to pay off the remaining £200, 000.